LGBT Employment and ‘Subtle’ Discrimination


Various off putting and discriminatory terms have been used in employment interviews to indicate management disapproval of a candidate. For example, a young professional woman may be asked if her husband would allow her to take business travel with male colleagues.

Of course, there is always the pregnancy question of a professional woman and that can lead in several discriminatory directions. Are you planning to have a family? Would you want to continue to work after having a child? And so it goes.

For openly out LGBT employment seekers, discriminatory questions tend to go toward health issues, especially mental health and HIV status. Employers are, of course, not allowed to ask health questions and are required by federal and state laws to accommodate health conditions designated or defined as a disability.

Still. When it comes to openly out LGBT job seekers, especially those seeking high paid professional jobs that require high levels of responsibility, veteran employers have subtle ways of asking “Are you mentally stable?”

Variations on “Are you mentally stable?” include “Are you well adjusted?” Translation: Are you sexually stable?

Another variation: “With regard to your sexuality, are you at peace with that?” Translation: “Are you sexually confused and/or mentally stable?”

Another variation: “Your family is supportive of your sexuality and at peace with that?” Translations: “Do you come from a stable home with a stable upbringing and are you mentally stable?”

Another variation, “Are you in control of your sexuality?” Translation: “At the firm, we can’t have displays of sexuality that might disrupt the work and offend our staff.”

Another translation: “Are you mentally stable?”

Employers have a variety of subtle ways to ask these questions, whether verbally or through a set of in-house questionnaires developed by staff to discriminate against LGBT employment seekers. Since the questionnaire is company property, the LGBT jobseeker will not have access to them as proof of employment discrimination. For this reason the LGBT jobseeker should take an iPhone image of the questionnaire and insist on completing the questionnaire in private.

If the interview is all verbal, an iPhone recorder in a jacket pocket might be used to record the interview. Recorders can be activated by accident if any questions arise about the recording. The job applicant can also ask to go to bathroom to check and adjust, if necessary, the quality of the recording.

In a July 1972 Dear Abby column a writer identified as Happy Heterosexual wrote, “There is no such thing as a well-adjusted homosexual; the two terms are antonymous. Homosexuality, male female, is a form of sexual deviation which is symptomatic of personality disorder.”

I am editing Abby’s response to “Dear Happy” with, “Much of the maladjustment seen in homosexuals is due to the rejection, persecution, and guilt imposed upon them by intolerant and ignorant contemporaries.”

Abby, Abigail Van Buren whose real name was Pauline Phillips, died in 2013, was an LGBT ally and spokesperson to the masses long before anyone else. Her daughter Jeanne continues her mother’s work to change minds today.

LGBT employment discrimination continues to cause suffering in our community due to “intolerant and ignorant employers,” outdated business and personnel policies, and outright bigotry. We all have to do our part to help bring the employment and other changes we want to see to support ourselves and our families. That takes work, action and the technology we all have in our pockets.

James Patterson is a Washington DC based writer and speaker who nearly lost his job as a diplomatic post due to long political interference from U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms. Patterson’s work appears in The Washington Post, The Foreign Service Journal,, The, San Francisco Chronicle, and many others. [email protected]